Permaculture Tip of the Day – The 12 Orders of Soil Taxonomy

If you are unaware of Soil Taxonomy I first recommend you read a quick tip I wrote on soil horizons here, then come back and finish this tip/article. Soil horizons are in depth information, but a fair warning here, soil taxonomy goes much deeper. If you are serious about your soil and especially how and why it got there, what happens when you introduce earthworks and hydration to it, and how to classify it so you can make extremely efficient quality decisions then this study is of vital importance. Soil taxonomy is a US based classification systems on soils. There are similar systems in the world. The FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) is a global soil classification system and database that many countries in the world use. The ESDAC (European Soil Data Centre) is a European based systems on soil classification. The Australian Soil Classification is for Australia. And even the Canadian System of Soil Classification is specific to Canada. However these are only a few.

Please research the above links if you are not in the USA. Although almost all the systems are very similar in how they classify the soil. There are differences per country. The FAO being the largest global cooperative of soil classification.

The 12 Order of Soil Taxonomy (USA – NRCS)

(A very brief summary)
Gelisols – Soils with permafrost within 2 m of the surface
Histosols – Organic soils
Spodosols – Acid forest soils with a subsurface accumulation of metal-humus complexes
Andisols – Soils formed in volcanic ash
Oxisols – Intensely weathered soils of tropical and subtropical environments
Vertisols – Clayey soils with high shrink/swell capacity
Aridisols – Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) containing soils of arid environments with subsurface horizon development
Ultisols – Strongly leached soils with a subsurface zone of clay accumulation and <35% base saturation
Mollisols – Grassland soils with high base status
Alfisols – Moderately leached soils with a subsurface zone of clay accumulation and >35% base saturation
Inceptisols – Soils with weakly developed subsurface horizons
Entisols – Soils with little or no morphological development

For further study I recommend:

Be prepared for study when diving into these systems. You will be learning a new language as many new terms will arise as almost everything has a unique name attached to it when it comes to this in depth soil classification.
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